Entebbe Regional Referral hospital has run out of space for coronavirus (COVID-19) disease patients.
When the hospital reopened to the general public last month, management ring-fenced the 50-bed private medical wing for COVID-19 patients and suspects. Uganda, which according to medical experts is now under the second wave spread is experiencing an increased number of COVID-19 cases.
Entebbe hospital principal administrator Muhammad Mubiru says their private wing is already full. The hospital currently has 45 COVID-19 patients, 15 of whom are critically ill and thereby in need of oxygen full time.
Since there are only 25 medics handling the COVID-19 suspects and patients, Mubiru says the facility cannot admit any more cases. As a result, Mubiru says new cases and those who are critically ill are being referred to Mulago hospital. However, Mulago's intensive care unit (ICU), with a total of 27 beds is also currently full.
Mubiru says that there is a need to beef the hospital with more staff such as critical care nurses to manage COVID-19 patients and suspects are transferred to the National Isolation Centre in Manyango. He says that amidst this space constraint, the hospital cannot lock out the rest of the patients as it did for over a year so as to focus on COVID-19 management.
“We are a regional referral hospital and we have the mandate to serve the community. We are expected to serve at least 3 million people from Mukono, Butambala, Kalangala, Wakiso and Mpigi," says Mubiru.
Mubiru adds, “So we have agreed with the ministry of Health to handle both the general public and the COVID-19 cases in the facility for the meantime.”
He explains further that it is difficult to transfer the COVID-19 patients before the housing block for medics has been constructed at the national isolation centre.
“We need the medics to reside there for effective infection control,” said Mubiru.
The National Isolation Centre, less than 2 kilometres from Entebbe hospital has been undergoing renovation since October 2019 and expected to be re-opened by end of this month. Eng. George Otim, commissioner health infrastructure at ministry of Health says the contractor (BMK Uganda Ltd) is left with remodeling the former Tuberculosis ward into a staff housing block and also floor works and painting for the rest of the medical structures.
The isolation centre is expected to have an installed bed capacity of 100 beds. As the hospital grapples with limited space for COVID-19 patients, the facility is also getting pressure due to the increasing number of outpatients. The hospital has designated 25 staff to handle COVID-19 suspects and confirmed cases. These include a physician, nurses, and hygienists.
The COVID-19 management team initially had 120 staff who also included the medics and security officers when the hospital was closed to the general public for over a year. 50 of these staff would reside inside the hospital to monitor the cases. Government used to provide meals for the entire team and patients.
However, when the hospital re-opened last month, Mubiru says government is providing food to only COVID-19 patients. As a result, the team, though smaller now, have to feed themselves and therefore work in shifts to ensure they eat and also rest adequately.
Mubiru says the hospital is trying its best to utilize the 25 staff for the COVID-19 ward so that the remaining 105 staff handle the general public.